Minuteman

Alabama Section

Why Can't He Learn to Use the Vacuum?

Why Can't He Learn to Use the Vacuum?

A woman's perspective of living with and loving a Mercedes-Benz Maniac

Authored by our own Bonnie Fancy.

Reprinted with permission from The Star Magazine. January / February 2010 Issue.


I am a dog lover which doesn't mix well with Ernie's passion for Mercedes. It took me a while to convince him we needed a dog. Yes, “need”, if we can “need” a third and a fourth car, then we can “need” a dog.

Max, our first dog was a Heinz 57 with a bit of collie in him. He was not interested in the cars and tended to avoid them. He did serve as a good excuse as to why my car got returned with an empty gas tank. “Max did it, Mom. He took your car after I did, but it's okay; he has a license.” Several years after Max died; I got our present dog, Piper, a border collie. If ever a dog could be said to be a Mercedes Maniac, it's this one. We have to spell “car”, “ride” and recently “garage.”

The first rule Ernie came up with was “the dog will not ride in my car”. That didn't last very long. Now they run errands together on Saturdays, and the rule was amended to “the dog will not ride in any of the antique or classic cars, especially the Mercedes.”

That didn't last long either. Ernie was ready to put the Fairlane convertible in the back garage after it had been in a parade when Piper decided a ride was in order and hopped in. I wish I had taken a picture of Piper riding in the back seat as if he were some sort of executive and Ernie the chauffeur. It's only a matter of time before there is tell tale dog hair in the back seat of the Mercedes.

Other people are also adamant about dogs in certain cars. John Piekarczyk's dog Jack has never ridden in anything but a Mercedes, but even he isn't allowed in John's show car, a 560 sec.

There is a certain amount of logic in this. Dog hair in the car is a deduction at a concours. Dog hair is very hard to get up. A blanket in the back seat isn't much of a help. Dogs tend to rearrange these things to their liking, which means some of the upholstery gets exposed not only to dog hair, but to claws. Dog hair flies and settles on the back of the front seat, the floor and any place else in the interior. It is also accompanied by a distinctive doggy odor. I've tried to teach Piper how to use the vacuum, but he refuses—something about no opposable thumbs.

In general, dogs are not necessarily good at a concours. Male dogs like to mark their territory by urinating on things, especially freshly Armoralled tires. At certain times female dogs will attract every male for miles around. All dogs will do their business whenever and wherever the spirit moves them. This does not add to the pleasure of an event, especially if you are the one who steps in it. Usually I work on the concours, so I'd rather not have to stop to clean up after Piper. Since he won't clean up after himself (it's that no opposable thumbs thing again), he stays home with his friend Jenny, who takes him for rides in her car.

Although he would probably enjoy rallies, I've never taken Piper on one. Most rallies that we do end at a restaurant, and I'm reluctant to leave a dog in a parked car, especially in the spring and summer when the interior temperature can get up over 100 degrees in no time flat even with the windows slightly open. Chuck and Char Swanson bring their dog to Farberrallye every year. Gustav is large and stays at the hotel while the rally is going on. He is calm and friendly and no one seems to mind his presence. In fact he is a welcome addition. Piper is too lively to keep in a hotel room. He would tear it apart. You have to know your dog's limits and be realistic about bringing him along.

Piper finds Ernie's workshop/garage fascinating, unless it's too noisy. Just the sight of Ernie near the grinder will send Piper on a visit to the neighbors or further. When Piper is at the garage, Ernie has to be sure to put interesting things up out of doggy reach. Various automotive fluids, such as transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, and antifreeze smell inviting to a dog. They are also lethal. Piper has his own bowl at the garage and Ernie keeps it full of fresh water.

Another problem area is chewing. Young dogs who are still teething will chew on anything hard including wooden dashboard trim. These things should be up out of harm's way. Chewing them can be hazardous not only to the item in question but also to the dog and not just because the finishes might be poisonous. The reaction of the car's owner might also be hazardous to the dog.

Moving cars around the yard can be risky. Piper insists on herding anything that moves and isn't a sheep. Since drivers can't see him, we've taught him to lie down off to one side when a car is making noise. Once the engine is off, we call him over, so he can investigate and say hello to the driver.

I realize that not everyone likes dogs, and some people are even afraid of them. Piper senses their discomfort and like the good shepherd he is, he snuggles close to them and licks their hands to calm them down. Naturally, this has the opposite effect. This is another reason Piper doesn't go to many club events. Between the people who are afraid of what he might do to their cars and the people who are afraid of him, it just makes more sense to leave him home. He is happier at home, and the event is enjoyed by all who attend, not just the dog lovers.

Bonnie Fancy